DAA TASKED time and time again not to be fined due to long queues at the airport and said it could jeopardize security.
In correspondence with the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), the DAA – the body responsible for the operation of Dublin Airport – said that their emphasis must remain on safety, rather than waiting times.
And they said that any overemphasis on queuing times risked the risk of non-compliance with strict EU safety rules.
In a letter to CAR, the DAA wrote: “Our focus in safety is to ensure that something does not end up on an aircraft that should not, in accordance with all European and Irish regulations.
“Although we do not want any passengers to be delayed in getting through the screening process, our focus cannot prioritize this over the safety and security of passengers.”
Their CEO Vincent Harrison added: “The reintroduction of fines increases the risk that the focus will lean too heavily on queuing times, leading to potential non-compliance.”
The DAA appealed for a “force majeure” and said that the effect of Covid-19 had been so serious that there were no further reasonable measures they could take to improve waiting times.
Correspondence with CAR runs from January to April, where the airport authority said monthly that fines would not be applied.
Each month, the Commission for Aviation Regulation agreed to their request, saying it was clear that Covid-19 was continuing to influence operations.
In April, CAR told Dublin Airport that it was “crucial” that they take all available measures to meet the queues for security queues.
A letter from their director of markets and consumer policy, Adrian Corcoran, said: “We expect there to be improvements in queuing times in the coming weeks as the effects of the many austerity measures that have been taken materialize.
While waiting times at the airport improved later in April and into May, chaos engulfed the airport last weekend when hundreds of passengers missed their flights.
The DAA was also told that the queue times are now affecting Ireland’s international reputation and was called to meetings with government ministers.
The first of the four letters to CAR was sent in January when the DAA said that Covid-19 and “close contacts” had put significant pressure on human resources.
They said that absenteeism had been up to 30% and that they were facing a competitive market when they tried to recruit additional staff.
In response, CAR said that they agreed that a “force majeure” incident had taken place and that the impact is likely to be high due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
In February, the DAA said that Covid-19 now accounted for 65% of all staff absences, that up to 22% of the people who reported to the security service were on sick leave and that this was 440% of the expected absence.
In March, the DAA still cited Covid-19 but said that other factors including recruitment and delays in the training of new staff also caused problems.
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They said they were working on new list models that would enable them to better scale resources up and down according to passenger demand.
April’s letter again called for the abolition of fines and that the challenges now included a marked increase in the detection of prohibited objects during screening, the reintroduction of the traveling public with safety processing, higher passenger requirements than expected, as well as Covid-19.
They wrote: “We must not forget the fact that our focus in security is to ensure that something does not end up on an aircraft that should not, with the primary aim of complying with all European and Irish safety regulations.”
The correspondence had originally been withheld by the Aviation Regulation Commission, which stated that the letters were confidential and exempt from release.
However, it was released following a successful appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.
In a statement, CAR said: “Due to the high staff absenteeism at Dublin Airport due to covid-19 in January, February and March this year, the Commission waived the potential penalty effect on the maximum level of airport charge per passenger.
“From the beginning of the summer season, the Commission has indicated to the DAA that it is less likely to waive penalties in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. We have not yet considered possible mitigating circumstances in connection with events since the beginning of the summer season.”
The DAA was asked to comment on the information and did not respond.
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